They call these the dog days of summer - those slow, sultry weeks when August reluctantly rolls into September, where afternoons last years and it's hotter and more humid than you've ever remembered any summer being.
It's the time of year when Sirius, the Dog Star, is high in the sky, rising and setting with the melting sun,
and it's the time to say goodbye to sundresses and sandals, and afternoon walks to the corner ice cream shop for chocolate sorbet;
to farms where sunbathed migrant workers shucked corn against the hazy, golden backdrop of the Catskill Mountains;
to spotted cows feeding at the trough at dusk, their tails drowsily brushing flies away in the afterglow of twilight;
to plucking wild raspberries and blackberries off brambly bushes, and picking their sticky seeds from my teeth on morning walks with Maple;
to the family of black bears who sauntered up and down the mountainside in search of feral turkeys, their paws the size of catchers' mitts;
and it's time to say good riddance to driving an old Jeep with no air conditioning, back-soaked t-shirts, and Garth Brooks twanging about wheats fields and rodeos on replay.
Goodbye to my first summer in the Hudson River Valley. You were intense, wild, full of surprises, and you will never been forgotten.
This thick, buttery lemon spread is the perfect end-of-summer
filling for a pie or tart. It's a sweet surprise inside a layer cake,
and also makes a lovely spread for scones and muffins.
3 medium egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Place a medium saucepan on the stove and add enough water to come about 1-inch up the side.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the water is heating, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth (about one minute).
Squeeze the juice of the two lemons into a measuring cup, topping off with water (if necessary) so that there's 1/3 cup altogether. Add the juice and lemon zest to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.
Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to low and place a large bowl on top of saucepan, essentially creating a double-boiler where the bowl doesn't directly touch the water. Whisk until thickened (about eight minutes), or until the mixture is light yellow and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in one pat of butter at a time. Allow each piece to fully melt before adding the next.
Pour into a mason jar or container, covering the top with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should be directly touching the curd). Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
I recently read a quote by Winston Churchill - "There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction."
Now I'm not one to post inspirational memes on my Facebook timeline - I'm much too cynical for that - but this particular line resonated with me. It brought to mind the magnet on my fridge with Henry David Thoreau's famous advice: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams... Live the life you've imagined."
Today marks the one month anniversary of our move to New York. Now that Moving May is behind us, we can reflect a bit. Hubby and I were talking about it last night and had to pat ourselves on the back for what we've managed to accomplish in just 30 days.
He traded in his sports car for a mountain-worthy vehicle, a brand new Jeep. A Patriot. I'll let the symbolism speak for itself.
Ala Billy Joel, I took a train down the Hudson River line and into Manhattan where one of Bobby's dearest friends gave me a personal tour of his workplace - the New York Times building. I walked the newsroom and even had lunch in the employee cafeteria, crossing multiple items off my Bucket List in one afternoon.
But beyond the material things, we feel we've grown richer simply by living where we live. We've planted a summer vegetable garden, gotten lost on winding country roads, meandered through small towns where the streets are lined with American flags, stumbled upon roadside barns in search of antiques, watched fireflies dance on a crystal clear night and seen the mountains disappear in the mist before a thunderstorm.
There will always be the stresses of everyday life, but, at this moment, we are letting ourselves simply enjoy the view. Now that we're facing the right direction.
White Cheddar Spinach Frittata
We've been making the most of our quiet mornings on the mountain by
drinking good, strong coffee and cooking hearty breakfasts like this one.
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup sharp white cheddar, grated*
salt & pepper to taste
* It's best to use a block of cheese and hand-grate it. Packaged, pre-shredded cheeses have a powdery preservative on them that will prevent them from melting properly.
First you'll want to blanch the spinach by placing it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them until cool enough to handle. In small bunches, squeeze the excess water from them, then give them a good chopping and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the chopped onions until they begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn. Add the spinach and heat through.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream/milk, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Once the veggies in the pan are heated through, pour the egg mixture over them and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
Place the skillet in the oven and cook through, 12 - 15 minutes.
I take no pleasure in publicly admitting this, but perhaps if I put it out into the universe it will stop keeping me up at night: I'll be 30 years old next month.
Actually, no, that didn't make me feel better at all.
I'm not sure how 30 is supposed to feel, but I don't feel it. In my mind, I'm still the same person I was at 22 - someone who loves Green Day, Friends marathons, eating Kraft Dinner out of the pot and spending the entire day in pajamas. I love the strawberry lollipops at my allergist's office and the excitement of Christmas morning. Don't let the glasses and my penchant for the New York Times crossword fool you - I'm still a kid at heart.
Superficially, some things have changed. These days just one cocktail makes me sleepy, I now dab on eye cream before bed and, to my dismay, find the occasional grey hair. But deep down I'm basically the same person who enjoys the same pastimes who values the same things. And the one constant, the thing that's never changed, is who I am at my very core, and that is an American.
Neither age nor living in another country for two years have managed to change that fact.
I left the States for Canada when I was 27, and although the two countries are both English-speaking and, on the outside, people appear the same, the cultures are actually quite different. I had a difficult time adjusting to the increased cost of living, the reservedness of the locals and just how much they love to hate their capitalistic cowboy neighbor to the south.
When Hubby and I realized that we'd never be able to afford the lifestyle we want in Canada (and I couldn't shake my perpetual feeling of homesickness), we tossed around the idea of moving back to the States. 'Would that make us quitters?' we wondered. 'And do we really want to put ourselves through another international move?'
Despite the worries, the concerns, the gut-wrenching fears of starting over yet again, the answer was inevitable.
At one of my lowest points last year, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't spend my 30th birthday in another country. It's arbitrary and illogical, but it was something my heart needed to hear. I needed to be home for my birthday. After so many challenges immigrating to Canada and so many months (27 to be exact, but who's counting?) living outside of my comfort zone, I felt I owed it to myself to celebrate such a milestone age at home, with my family.
And so, at 7:33 a.m. on May 3rd I'll be 30 years old. I'll also be a resident of the state of New York.
Happy birthday to me.
Homestyle White Bread
Shortly after Hubby and I signed the lease to our new
townhouse in New York, I baked a couple loaves of
this homestyle white bread. It was simple, comforting
and tasted like home. Fitting for the occasion.
Yield: 2 loaves
* This bread is great for sandwiches and French toast. It will stay fresh, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for 3-4 days. It can also be wrapped in plastic and then foil, and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months.
1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet (2 & 1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup warm milk (any kind will do but I use 2%)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon oil (any kind - vegetable, canola, olive, etc)
In the bowl of a standing mixer, pour the water and sprinkle the yeast over top. No need to stir. Let this stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is broken up.
Melt the butter in the microwave, then stir in the warm milk, sugar, and salt. Pour 1 cup of flour and the liquid mixture over the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until this comes together into a loose batter.
Add another 4 & 1/2 cups of flour and stir until a shaggy dough forms.
Using the dough hook attachment on the standing mixer, knead the dough at medium speed for 10 minutes. If you don't have a mixer, knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough feels gummy or sticky, add extra flour (one tablespoon at a time) until it feels right. It should be smooth and spring back when poked.
Clean out the mixing bowl and add the oil, coating the bowl with your hand. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning it so it's lightly coated with oil. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size (about one hour).
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Cut in two and shape each half into a loose ball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes.
Grease two loaf pans. Shape each ball of dough into a loaf and gently place them in the loaf pans. Let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. While they are rising, preheat your oven to 425° F.
Slash the tops of the loaves down the middle with a serrated knife. Place both pans in the oven and then turn down the heat to 375°F. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Do not slice until almost cool.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.